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Technology

They’re the two titans of the tech industry, and they command attention throughout the digital realm the way the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. once drove the geopolitical agendas of the entire world. They’ve sparred before, especially on the issue of Android vs. the iPhone. 

On an overcast Friday afternoon last August, a hundred or so employees of AOL's local news subsidiary, Patch, crammed into a cafeteria at the company's headquarters in Manhattan. Another several hundred connected to the room via conference call.

Since moving to California in 1990, Behar has become one of the leading industrial designers of his generation, creating iconic objects for Jawbone, Herman Miller, General Electric, and Puma, among many others. The objects often have a socially progressive bent: light fixtures that promote energy conservation, say, or cheap but durable laptops that offer poor children improved access to education.

The Y Combinator offices sit at the dead center of Silicon Valley">Silicon Valley, in Mountain View, on a street called Pioneer Way. Y Combinator shares space with a company called Anybots—which makes robots that can be controlled remotely—and occasionally a droid will motor through the room on a Segway-style base.

He’s not a household name like Gates, Jobs, or Zuckerberg. His face isn’t known to millions. But during his remarkable 20-year career, no one has done more than Marc Andreessen to change the way we communicate.

I'm sitting across from a blind man — call him patient alpha — at a long table in a windowless conference room in New York. On one end of the table there's an old television and a VCR. On the other end are a couple of laptops. They're connected by wires to a pair of home-made signal processors housed in unadorned gunmetal-gray boxes, each no bigger than a loaf of bread. 

Laws and Sherman might never have had occasion to be in the same room together if not for Hunter Moore, the man whose website posted photos of Laws’ daughter. Often called the King of Revenge Porn, Moore has been arrested following an FBI investigation. As he awaits his court date, those going after individuals who steal and share intimate photos are facing an increasingly unwinnable game of whack-a-mole; revenge porn is becoming less centralized, more common, and harder to trace.

On the one hand, computer networks are said to be disrupting centralized power of all kinds and giving it to the individual. Customers can bring corporations to their knees by tweeting complaints. A tiny organization like Wiki-leaks can alarm the great powers with nothing but encryption and net access. Young Egyptians can organize a nearly instant revolution with their mobile phones and the Internet.

Shaken by the latest digital gold rush, San Francisco struggles for its soul. Last year, when Mayor Ed Lee heard that Twitter was planning to move its headquarters out of San Francisco and down to the peninsula, he quickly consulted with his digital experts—his two daughters, Brianna, 27, and Tania, 30.

Was the company important enough to make a top priority? “Of course it’s important, Daddy!” they told him. “We tweet all the time. You have to keep them in town.”

 The Lower East Side of New York was one of the most densely populated square miles on the face of the earth in the 1890s. The photo-essayist Jacob Riis famously described it as a world of bad smells, scooting rats, ash barrels, dead goats, and little boys drinking beer out of milk cartons. 

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